“What,” The word escapes his gritted teeth, sounding more of a hiss than human language as he looks at the shorter male in front of him, fluttering his fan oh so annoyingly even as Jiang Cheng stares him down with the threat of violence in his eyes. “What exactly are you doing here.”
It is more of a statement than it is a question, and he knows Nie Huaisang is perceptive enough to know that he doesn’t want to know, he just wants him out. “You mean in your chambers?” Comes the answer - well, more of a question to his non-question, and Jiang Cheng’s eye twitches as his gaze falls on Nie Huaisang’s fan. He wants to snap that fan in half.
“No, in this world. Really, just go on and disappear already.” A tilt of his chin upwards as he tries to put even more of a distance between their gazes.
“That’s harsh, Jiang-xiong,” Nie Huaisang responds, sounding hurt and pitiful as he makes an exaggerated expression like that of a downtrodden puppy - but the glint in his eyes speaks of just the opposite.
A poor puppy? He thinks sarcastically. Nie Huaisang was more like a feral wolf using the fact that he looked like a pup to his advantage.
“I only came to check on you, Sect Leader Jiang.” Nie Huaisang quips mildly, fluttering that damned fan again as he walks in uninvited, coming way closer than Jiang Cheng would have liked and smiling at him. A gentle smile. A sect leader’s soft expression. The one he uses before vehemently denying that he knows anything. The same one that makes his skin crawl and the back of his throat itch in a manner that makes him want to claw his insides out his mouth from the sheer fakeness of that expression.
Now that he knows, that is. Before he may have only thought it beautiful, if not exasperating.
Without giving it much thought, Jiang Cheng takes a step forward to get Nie Huaisang to stop coming any closer already, purpose and suffocating pressure in the act. "You need not have done that, I'm sure you must be extremely busy what with volunteering to hold that sealing ceremony... Sect Leader Nie." He says leisurely, each word sharp and cutting and articulate. Nie Huaisang does stop, and for some reason he doesn't quite grasp he can feel him smirking from behind his fan. The poison he put into the words 'sect leader Nie' probably fell short, he thinks, forcing a mocking smile of his own, all teeth and murder and the looming promise of pain.
"How kind of you to worry! But rest assured," Huaisang shuts the fan in one smooth and practiced motion, tapping it to the other's chest, and Jiang Cheng bristles, "I have prioritised my duties. Why, I came here to personally extend an invitation in the first place, seeing how you're doing was only secondary."
"And to invite me, you walk into my personal chambers with no regard for etiquette, is that right?"
"Yes, we're close enough, wouldn't you say? Having been through life and death together, none of the Jiang disciples had any qualms letting me in as well."
Jiang Cheng sneers as he uses a hand to forcefully clutch the fan on his chest, pushing it aside, aware that meant he had managed to sneak in or bribe his way in somehow . He’s holding the fan too tightly, and Nie Huaisang, for however weak and thin he looks, doesn’t have much less of a grip - prying it away and to the side leads to the metal wing of the fan slitting his palm. He doesn’t care for the red liquid sliding down the surface of the fan as it is held horizontally, because the surprise that passes through Nie Huaisang in that moment, a look that yells he is thrown off balance by something he didn’t see coming, is extremely satisfying and worth however many milliliters of blood were slowly dripping from his hand through the fan onto Huaisang’s, and finally onto the floor. “Leave.” He snarls, pulling Nie Huaisang closer with the aid of the fan tainted red, never once touching him.
It was fitting, anyway. They only have blood between them at this point. Jiang Cheng has no wish for there to be anything else.
Nie Huaisang, however, seems to think otherwise, he doesn’t look caught off-guard anymore, and instead smiles again, this time looking coquettish, his painted lips seeming to shine lightly in the late afternoon light. Something treacherous inside of him lingers a little too long on those deceitful lips.
“Jiang-xiong, oh Jiang-xiong,” Simpers the older, bewitching eyes looking over his face distractedly, his voice no higher than a whisper. “Why do you growl so? Are we not friends? Look, you have gone and hurt yourself in your obstinacy.” He reaches out with his free hand to gently clasp Jiang Cheng’s over the fan, eyes never once moving away from his as he holds their gaze, intense, burning, animous, and pries Jiang Cheng’s fingers off the fan, one by one, his touch searing through cold fingers. Despite himself, Jiang Cheng’s breath hitches in his throat at the first instance of real physical contact, and for fear of it showing in his voice or manner he does not fight it.
He brings his hand down, removing it from Nie Huaisang’s hold, the thin but somewhat deep cut across his palm stinging as the air hit his skin, stepping back. He may have won when he acted out of Huaisang’s expectations, but Huaisang didn’t lose. Not at all. On the contrary, he seems delighted. An exasperated sigh leaves his lips as he tries to ignore how his hand now burns in the places Nie Huaisang’s thin, cold fingers touched him, in addition to bleeding, and he grouses, “Blame yourself. You know you wouldn’t be here if it weren’t something annoyingly inconsequential, and I am in no mood to deal with you. Show yourself out, or I will take care to see you out myself.”
He said that, but he knows he won’t. Why that is, he doesn’t know; he is simply too tired from the events of the past two weeks or so to even care about him. “Jiang-xiong,” Huaisang all but whines, tucking his fan into his belt, his bell jingling a little at that, and Jiang Cheng absently notes how he has finally started carrying his sabre along. It looks good. “I have important things to discuss. Won’t you even ask me to sit?”
No. It doesn’t. Shut up.
“You came here by yourself without announcing your arrival because you don’t want others to know, right? Leave from the back exit. Begone.”
“How are your injuries?”
“Why do you care? ”
“Because I care for you!”
A bleak bitterness. “As if,” He scoffs, teeth bared in a snarl, eyebrows furrowed heavily. As if there could be people aside from Jin Ling or a few of his sect members caring for him at this point in time. And they all knew better than to ask about his injuries of all things. Only three days ago had he cowed the Jin sect into accepting Jin Ling as the current sect leader. He wasn’t incapicitated, what was the point?
Nie Huaisang looks like he is pouting slightly at that. Jiang Cheng wants to rub his eyes in disbelief, can this person who has no heart and whose body is perpetually cold like the blood that runs through his veins ever be capable of looking as human as this? No. Of course not. “Believe me.” He says, manner still mild, still amiable, ever the people pleaser.
Jiang Cheng walks away and holds the door open, quirking an eyebrow. He doesn’t believe him.
It is Nie Huaisang’s turn to sigh. He moves closer to Jiang Cheng, wordlessly taking his injured hand in both of his. Jiang Cheng snatches it back. “Oh please ,” Huaisang says, annoyed, pushing them away from the door and sliding it shut as he does so. “Show me your hand.”
“Why, what are you going to do, bandage it?” The idea seems so ridiculous to Jiang Cheng that he nearly barks out a laugh.
“No, not without cleaning it,” He says casually, and, to Jiang Cheng’s absolute horror, brings his palm up to his face, leans down a little, and looks like he’s about to lick it.
Jiang Cheng jumps back before his mouth - or worse, tongue - can touch his skin. “What the fuck , what the absolute fuck, Nie Huaisang, what-”
Nie Huaisang has a blank expression on, looking like he never did anything wrong, and it is only after Jiang Cheng has shirked away a good couple of feet away that he snorts, looking like he’s trying extremely hard not to burst out laughing even as he shakes uncontrollably in soundless giggles. “You- Your face ,” He says, finally laughing out loud, appearing way too entertained for something he had started and orchestrated himself. Jiang Cheng wants to throw the whole man out.
“I swear to fuck I will feed you to the crocodiles.” He hisses out, composing himself. “What was that even for, don’t tell me you’re a bloodsucker in more than just name?”
Nie Huaisang is still laughing, wiping a tear from his eye, almost on the floor. “I just-” A wheeze as he tries to catch his breath, holding on to the table in the middle of the outer chambers for support as he’s crouching down on the ground, “-I was going to tease you by saying with how barbaric you have been- pfft - been to me,” Another bout of giggles, “You probably would have just licked it clean and slapped a bandage on top if I didn't help, but, oh my god , the way you-” And there he goes, collapsing into peals of laughter again.
He will tell himself later on that he couldn’t have helped it, he was too worked up, he was just really mad - but he knows then that part of him just really wants to shut him up. Anything will do, but this is the preferable method.
Nie Huaisang barely has time to recover before he finds Jiang Cheng above him, both hands slammed on the table he is leaning against, and he is caged in - Jiang Cheng’s face inches away from his, eyes betraying how mad he was, even as his own gaze drops down to his mouth. “Shut up already.” He hears the taller man say, voice deep and low and making his stomach flip.
There are many things Nie Huaisang regrets. Most of them have been out of his power, several are regrets about not being good enough - but he absolutely does not regret leaning up and softly pressing a kiss against Jiang Cheng’s lips in that moment, on a careless whim. Something he doesn’t allow himself generally. A luxury perhaps as sweet as the scent of lotus wafting up to his nostrils from their close proximity, a scent he has grown to associate with Jiang Cheng. All of Yunmeng smells like lotuses, but Jiang Cheng feels different in the specific way that only he does, as though he has managed to condense lightning and mix it with lotus and turn that into an incense he burns daily within himself.
It’s kind of hilarious to see the Sandu Shengshou freeze, appearing dumbfounded and stricken dead internally. It is not, however, hilarious anymore when he is about to pull back and laugh it off and tease him but instead feels a rough, calloused hand on his cheek and watches Jiang Cheng’s eyes flutter close - he is pulled close into the kiss and kissed back and holy ancestors and their sabre spirits what the fuck did he get himself into.
“Ngh-” He unintentionally lets out a small sound of surprise and what the fuck was that? Contentment? Satisfaction? Pleasure? Oh DEAR gods, “J-Jiang-xiong-” He tries to break away and plead for his life, the words accompanied by half a nervous chuckle that dies completely in his throat after being muffled by Jiang Cheng’s lips again. He gulps, tensing up as he feels Jiang Cheng’s arm wrap around his waist, pulling him closer so as to leave no room for breath let alone for argument. Panic arises in the pit of his stomach - something he hasn’t experienced in literal years, the last time probably having been a decade or so ago back in Gusu for some odd mischief that could have gotten his older brother or Lan Qiren to have his head on a platter. He tries to stand up, arching his back in an effort to peel away and the back of his calf hits the low table. Hard. Throwing him off balance as his knee bends and he falls backwards.
The both of them end up stumbling, and Huaisang sees stars for a millisecond as the back of his head hits the godforsaken table. He swears under his breath, the sound a mere groan as his and Jiang Cheng’s teeth collide in the process as well, feeling a bit of blood in his mouth.
“I should say that, why on earth would you bite me?”
Nie Huaisang blinks at that, rubbing the sore spot on his head that he could feel was going to become a painful bump soon enough. “I didn’t even bite y- Wait.” Hold on. So the blood he tastes in his mouth is from Jiang Cheng, and looking up now he could see the man in purple robes holding a hand over his mouth and looking over at him with pain in his gaze. And annoyance. Mostly annoyance. “Oh.”
Jiang Cheng takes his hand away, holding his tongue out as if he has had something too hot and too spicy, looking like a pained feral kitten to Nie Huaisang. He can see that it is red at the tip, even looking burned. “Disgusting.”
“You kissed me!” He bursts out at that, still sitting on the table, his robes sprawled out around him, pointing an accusatory finger at him. Jiang Cheng just looks even more annoyed, even a little flushed from anger.
“Hah? I did? That is definitely not what I remember, Sect Leader Nie. If you come into my chambers unannounced and deem it safe to shamelessly kiss me, that is clearly on you. Don’t tell me you never expected retaliation.” His eyes are narrowed per usual, a sneer in his voice even as there is a loathsome smile gracing his features, and Nie Huaisang wants to smack that expression off his face with his fan. The only thing out of place is the slight change of colour in his cheeks - retaliation his ass this is not how things should have been! Who kisses back after a peck and calls it revenge!? He was expecting, oh he doesn’t know, an embarrassed Jiang Cheng getting angry and maybe taking out Zidian on him.
Not fucking this.
Jiang Cheng licks his lips idly, adding even though no one asks, “And you’ve gone and hurt me too.” He mirrors the words Nie Huaisang himself had said before, making him want to pout.
“You hurt yourself first…” Nie Huaisang mumbles, looking at Jiang Cheng’s injured hand and realising his cheek feels slightly wet. His mouth falls open in horror as he brings a finger to his cheek and looks at it - confirming his suspicions. “And you even bled all over me! I can’t believe you.”
Jiang Cheng cocks an eyebrow. “It's barely a smidge. Just wipe it off.” His tone is dismissive, but the way he turns away tells Nie Huaisang that it's not because he doesn't care, but because he's too embarrassed to meet his gaze head on. Good. Alright. He can gain the upper hand again if he's not entirely unaffected.
He pouts, decisively putting on the most infuriating expression he can muster and whines, “You did this, Jiang-xiong, the least you can do is wipe your own blood off yourself.”
“You-” Jiang Cheng starts, and all Nie Huaisang has to do is pout and hold out his handkerchief to startle him into silence. It is embroidered with a small apricot blossom and Jiang Cheng’s eye twitches as he looks at it, the frown on his face heavy. The clench of his jaw is prominent enough to make Nie Huaisang feel exactly how much control Jiang Cheng is exercising in that moment to hold himself back from decapitating the man in front of him.
After a few seconds of internal struggle Jiang Cheng concedes, sighing in irritation, but he doesn’t take the handkerchief. Nie Huaisang hums contentedly as Jiang Cheng approaches closer, leaning down, and -
Wait. Hold on. Hold on. “...Jiang-xiong.”
...Is what he said. How the fuck is he expected to ‘shut up’ when Jiang Cheng is leaning on the table, one hand flat against it for support while the other roughly cups Nie Huaisang’s chin and turns his head to the side for ease of access? How the fuck is he expected to stay quiet when he feels something warm and wet on his cheek, tickling his skin even as his limbs seem to lock up such that he can barely move back on the table to try to get away from him?
He finds his voice with some difficulty, his throat dry all of a sudden with some invisible fire that was raging within his insides and giving heat to his cheeks. “Is- Is this revenge?” He manages to rasp out, a breathy snicker accompanying the words and he nearly has a stroke on how much of a fool he appears to be.
“Mnn.” Jiang Cheng seems to have groaned in the same breath as he affirms his statement. “You asked me to wipe it off myself, and if I used something of yours you wouldn’t be satisfied.” The words are mumbled against his skin even as Jiang Cheng continues to ‘clean’ his cheek, his warm breath against his cheek and ear causing the hair on the back of his neck stand up.
“Ahah, I, I change my mind, Sect Leader Jiang doesn’t have to bother-”
There is an amused snort and Nie Huaisang clutches Jiang Cheng’s shoulder with a squeak as he is pushed even lower on the table, his back ready to give out from this weird position in between sitting and lying down. He forgets to continue to rest of his sentence when Jiang Cheng pulls away from his cheek with a flick of his tongue - making Nie Huaisang whimper soundlessly - and looks at his face with a barely entertained smile, canines showing. “Of course I do, Sect Leader Nie, I wouldn’t want to dirty something belonging to you even further.”
Well, true, if he had used his handkerchief, Nie Huaisang would’ve complained about him getting it dirty - but only for the sake of complaining. Having the fact spoken to him like that, though, makes his heart nearly stop, and he can only force a nervous smile. And then Jiang Cheng moves his hands on his back and his smile gives way to a confused yelp, finding himself lying on the table now, looking upwards at the ceiling before Jiang Cheng’s face obstructs his vision. Flushed, but his gaze holding the same intensity as ever - perhaps even more intense right now. “How aggressive, Jiang-xiong.”
“You really should shut up if you know what’s good for you.” Jiang Cheng murmurs, leaning down again and licking his cheek again, trailing downwards to his exposed neck and peppering a few soft kisses and teasing his skin with small, light flicks of his tongue.
“... Exactly like a dog.” Nie Huaisang makes sure to lace his voice with as much amusement as he can, his hands wrapped around Jiang Cheng’s shoulders now, tilting his head willingly to let him have access. He gasps when Jiang Cheng nips his earlobe very softly in response to that.
He growls in response, the calloused thumb of the hand cupping his face gently stroking his skin even as he does so. “ Woof . Now shut up already or I might gag you.” Nie Huaisang can’t even count the number of shivers that go through his spine at that coupled with his hot breath on his ear, but of course he won’t just do as he is told. He knees Jiang Cheng in the thigh, not hard but doing it a few times, enough to cause minor inconvenience and forcing him to pull back and glare at this absolute menace with a shit-eating grin on his face.
“What.” He says again, like the greeting he had first given him.
“Sect Leader Jiang, are you sure you should be doing…” He raises an eyebrow and looks at the place their bodies are pressed together, looking back at him with eyes full of innocence. “Whatever this is to me?”
“I swear to fu -”
“No, really, if I am found like this in your chambers…”
Jiang Cheng squints at him, eyes full of loathing with spite thrown in for flavour. “And who’s gonna find you, huh? Coming in yourself without an envoy and disregarding etiquette, do you expect Qinghe to send in people looking for you here ?”
Just as Jiang Cheng is about to gag him for real, except with his own mouth, he senses a presence at the door and looks back in annoyance, ready to pull Zidian on whichever son of a gun had decided they were done of living, but -
“Sect Leader, much apologies, but there are people from Qinghe requesting an audience. They say the matter is urgent and pertains to the security of their sect leader.”
“...I cannot stand you.”
Nie Huaisang smothers a laugh by biting his lip, practically feeling the frustration Jiang Cheng emanates as he breaks away to stand up, not even sparing a glance at the man spread out on his table at his house in his quarters. Wow would you think of that. Jiang Cheng holds his face for a second, groaning semi-audibly into his hands as Nie Huaisang leisurely gets up and without even bothering to fix his clothes, trots up to him.
“Jiang-xiong,” Whines Nie Huaisang, only smiling like a fool with no sense of self preservation when Jiang Cheng’s head snaps in his direction to finally grace him with his gaze, eyes holding a homicidal light.
There is a pause as he takes in Nie Huaisang’s full appearance, disheveled and goofy, his robes loosened and his hair nearly having come undone with the rough handling Jiang Cheng had subjected him to. His collar is open wider than would be considered appropriate under any circumstances, and he lets his gaze linger on Nie Huaisang’s throat and adam’s apple, roving down to the bit of collarbone visible before the rest of him is covered by the robes he suddenly dislikes.
“Like what you see?”
“For the last fucking time shut up -”
The attendant at the door calls out again, “Sect Leader?”
Jiang Cheng bites down a curse and responds, loud enough for his voice to carry through the door, “Yes. Sect Leader Nie snuck in, tell them it is nothing to be worried about.” He looks back at the state Nie Huaisang is in. “...You.”
“Yes, Jiang-xiong?” The other titters, already walking up to the door, hand ready to slide it open.
“Are you walking out like that?” Jiang Cheng has difficulty even forming those words because that means acknowledging fully that it was him that caused him to look that way in the first place. It was proof that something happened here, something he couldn’t take back and god he wishes he had more time to figure it out.
Nie Huaisang lifts up a hand, looking at his sleeves that seem too big for him now that the collar is nearly slipping off and he looks like he has been all but mauled by someone. “Why, yes, because Sect Leader Jiang so graciously fixed up my look.”
He finally lets out the curse he has been biting back for so long. “Fucking hell, Nie Huaisang, what even is the meaning of making sure there is someone to interrupt us so soon even though Qinghe is the furthest-”
“I don’t know what you mean, Jiang-xiong.” He preens, sliding the door open. “I don’t know. Maybe I feared for my life. I really don’t know.”
Jiang Cheng glares at the poor attendant waiting for them outside, having come back after relayed the message to the Qinghe ambassadors. It effectively shuts him up and he doesn’t even bat an eye on how Nie Huaisang appears right then.
“Oh, yes, my original purpose in coming here.” Nie Huaisang turns, taking up Jiang Cheng’s hand without consent and with exactly no amount of shame, “You are formally invited to the sealing ceremony. I’m sure one of my men have already brought the written invitation.”
Jiang Cheng snaps back, “Right, sure, I will be there, Sect Leader Nie rest assured.” The words he uses are nearly sarcastic as he still refers to him by his title, eye twitching as he looks at his hand in both of Nie Huaisang’s but still does not pull away.
The attendant quietly takes a few steps back to give them some amount of privacy - as much as they can have out in the open - and also because he doesn’t want to risk beheading.
“Get it cleaned up later.” Nie Huaisang says softly, using the handkerchief he had flourished in front of Jiang Cheng’s face before to gently tie up his injured hand.
“Hah, so you are not going to whine about me using something of yours?” He can't help but think maybe he isn't as cold as he had thought him to be mere moments ago. If he could find it in himself to want something more than only the blood they had between them previously, is it really that much of a surprise that Nie Huaisang is no different?
“Not if you visit me later to return it.” Nie Huaisang chirps, his smile a practiced shade of angelic with just the right amount of coy playing in the depth of his eyes. “Make sure to wash it before you do that though, and I will be grateful.”
Jiang Cheng scoffs, responding with a smile of his own - except this one was spiteful and mocking and at least seven shades of bitter. “As Sect Leader Nie wishes. I will be glad to give you something more than the fact that your robes are pristine and whole to be grateful for.”
“Oh, you are welcome to remedy that later.”
And as Nie Huaisang walks in front of him, leading the way like he owns the place and completely oblivious to the awkward glances disciples and odd sect members give him, Jiang Cheng reevaluates his life choices and comes to the conclusion that he really should have torn those robes up when he had the chance.